UB Paintball: low finances, high national recognition
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
They stand tall and ready to accept their first-place trophy, proud as their uniforms are covered in multi-colored splatters of paint. To them, that’s a sign of strength.
UB is home to a nationally ranked sports team – a team that has bested semi-professional teams in tournaments. A team that, last April, placed seventh in the national championship tournament, and the year before that, won it.
It’s not the basketball team and it’s not the football team – it’s the paintball team.
Paintball is an organized sport played by two teams on an outdoor field about one-third the size of a football field. A game consists of two fifteen minute halves in which players from the two teams run and duck around inflatable bunkers, dodging the other teams shots and returning their own.
“Paintball is more strategy than it is physical,” said Scott Dahlin, a junior electrical engineering major and new team member. “There has to be a certain level of gun skill, but if as a team you have no plan, you have no chance to win.”
A player must leave the field if he’s hit by a paintball. The goal of the game is to capture a flag from the center of the field and carry it to the other team’s setbox, which earns a team four points. The team with the most points at the end of 30 minutes wins, a result which the 15-person UB team has come to expect.
The paintball team has gone undefeated in its past four regional tournaments and it doesn’t plan on stopping that streak anytime soon, according to senior biology major Ed Bautista, who is the team’s treasurer.
The team is ranked 11th by the National Collegiate Paintball Association and has most recently competed in two national championship tournaments in Lakeland, Fla.
Two years ago, Bautista sealed the victory over UB's MAC rival, Western Michigan, to win the tournament – and earned UB its first national title in paintball. While the team’s success may be a well-kept secret on campus, it is known amongst committed paintball players.
UB Paintball has even helped the school increase enrollment.
“People know UB Paintball,” Bautista said. “We know people who were at Buff State or who played in summer leagues with us who came to UB because they wanted to be on this team.”
Paintball isn’t cheap.
The paintball team’s accomplishments are especially impressive considering the cost of playing the game. The Student Association will give the team a total of $2,500 this year, most of which will go to funding its trip to the national championship.
The average price of the equipment necessary for just one player to be ready for tournament competition is $2,000. The team tries to send 10 players to every tournament.
Tournaments and practice add to the team’s financial burden. The entrance fee and travel cost usually run $1,000 per tournament, and the cost of paintballs necessary to practice is an additional $100 per person.
The $2,500 provided by SA is a $1,000 cut from last year. This tightened an already stretched-thin budget, but the team isn’t bitter.
“You can’t expect the SA to shell out a lot of money just so we can go play,” said senior George Kalkowsky, senior engineering major and paintball club president. “Every club is taking hits right now. We just have to work harder to raise funds.”
Finding additional funds has proved a difficult task for the team, according to Kalkowsky.
In a club sport where the cost of playing is over $2,500 per person and the prizes for winning the national championship are plastic medals and a free Yoo-Hoo, private donations are essential.
With the exception of Headrush Paintball – a paintball arena in Syracuse which lets the team use its facility for a reduced price – local businesses have been unwilling to provide sponsorship despite numerous solicitations from the players.
But the team’s financial issues have brought its members closer together, Kalkowsky said.
“We’re all best friends. We’re all in the same struggle and that doesn’t stop at graduation,” Kalkowsky said. “You got two four-hour [trips] in a car together going to an event. You cram like nine guys into one hotel room, and you’re going to get to know each other.”
The financial difficulties forced the team to compete in two tournaments per semester and one practice per week.
“Anyone who’s played paintball knows there’s nothing [else] like it,” Kalkowsky said. “When you play paintball there’s this adrenaline you get from it, and I’m a junkie.”
The team’s main goal is increasing the play of paintball in the Western New York area, which is a desert landscape for paintball players, Kalkowsky said.